Challenging colour theory in educational design

04 Nov 2011

New elementary school in California promotes learning through colour

When a private foundation stepped forward to provide the funding for this public elementary school campus in 2007, their intention was to create a model for future schools that was both environmentally friendly and an inspiring learning environment for students. They were looking to break away from traditional design patterns so prevalent in the United States, patterns which too often revolved around isolated monochromatic interior rooms with little connection to their outdoor environment.

The result is a building where half the learning spaces are outdoors, despite being located within a region with hot, dry summers and cold rainy winters. The colour palette for the exterior of the building is designed to blend with the texture of its natural surroundings, with decorative rammed earth walls framing the main entry, and one hundred year-old recycled redwood highlighting the outdoor learning streets.

Colour is an integral part of the interior design, with classrooms designed to accentuate the non-rectilinear walls and exposed structure with a palette that changes as children rise in grade. Located throughout the school, LED lighting alternates colour to identify how well the school is performing with energy use.

Overall, the school is viewed by its teachers as a living, learning laboratory that utilises colour to verify the positive effects colour can have on children's ability to learn and be inspired. The children who come here will live a large part of their early lives inside its walls, and as such those walls have been made as transparent as possible, with a connection between inside and outside that has been so blurred those walls often disappear completely.

Within and without, all spaces are learning places, designed to be as playful as the children who will inhabit them.

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United States

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